If you’re like me, you relish in the experience of dining out. There’s something about the ambience and aromas permeating a restaurant’s atmosphere. It’s a delicious luxury, indeed. But what if you’re watching what you eat? Truth is, you can still experience the same blissfulness in eating out while remaining healthy. Not convinced? Shana Maleeff, a registered dietitian nutritionist with 17 years of experience, offered tips on how to dine out without sabotaging a healthy regime.
Food Coach Has Her Own Rules
Check the menu in advance
Looking up a restaurant’s menu prior is often successful in preventing a diner from choosing a high-calorie dish they’ll regret. “Take a few minutes to peruse the menu and choose one or two healthy options for your meal,” suggested Maleeff, who also runs the wellness website FoodandFitnessPro. “Then when you arrive at the restaurant, you won’t have to make a decision based on impulse, hunger or lack of time to review the menu.”
Read the menu carefully
“Understand what important words or phrases on the menu mean,” she said. For example, a baked potato is much lower in calories and fat than a fried potato or au gratin. “Choose baked, grilled, steamed and broiled instead of fried, creamy, crispy, buttery and alfredo.” When in doubt, find out if the chef can suggest a healthier version of the dish you are eyeing.
Choose a healthy app
For some, skipping appetizers would be a sin. Maleeff suggested choosing something light, yet filling. Opt for “a tossed salad with dressing on the side, a broth-based vegetable soup or a clean protein like shrimp cocktail.” These will satisfy but also keep the health-conscious on the right track.
Say no to bread baskets
Don’t worry, I won’t breadbasket shame you because we’re all victim to its lure. But it’s really your worst enemy. Maleeff advised to simply remove temptation from the equation. “Bread and chips before a meal increase the carbohydrate, sodium and calorie count exponentially. Instead of mindlessly eating the equivalent of a bagel before your meal, ask your server to remove the basket and order a healthy app right away.”
Split an entrée
Some entrees pack a stronger caloric punch than others. Sharing one allows you to indulge without the guilt. “Most restaurant entrees are way richer than you think—they can easily exceed 1,000 calories.” Not into sharing? Maleeff suggested asking the server to pack up half the entree before it even comes out of the kitchen. Taking control is smart dining!
Take your time
Dining out is all about the experience, so why rush? Experts say it takes the brain roughly 20 minutes to register that the stomach is full. Savor every moment. “Chew slowly, drink water, put your fork down between bites and enjoy your company,” she said.
Don’t waste precious calories before your food even hits the table. “Beverage calories can add up quickly and are often hidden or underestimated. These are empty calories that provide little to no nutritional value. Stick to water, seltzer, unsweetened iced tea, tea and coffee for zero sugar/zero calorie options.” Stay away from juices, sodas, lemonades and other sweetened drinks. In terms of alcohol, minimize quantity and go for vodka/soda or wine.
To dessert or not dessert?
You’ve done so well up to this point. Can you reap the benefit by ordering something sweet? Passing on dessert and ordering a coffee or tea is the optimal decision. For those who can’t resist, there’s still opportunity to have a taste. “If you are really determined to end your experience with something sweet, split dessert with multiple people or sample and savor 2-3 bites and put the fork down.”